Deck steps ideas: 10 clever ways to link different levels
These inspiring deck steps ideas cleverly combine style, safety and on-trend features so you can take your deck design to the next level
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Whether you're looking for inspiring deck steps ideas to smarten up an existing project or are designing a new decked space from scratch, there are lots of styles to choose from. With everything on offer from floating, curved and angled steps that help to open the space, to smart options with inlaid lighting, integral features like cobbles, and stair-and-handrail designs, it's easy to find something that will suit your space.
If your garden is on different levels, sloping or terraced you'll definitely be needing deck steps to help you make the most of your space. Raised, platform and multi-level decks are also the perfect opportunity to think about how to incorporate steps within the overall landscaping scheme for a seamless link.
So if you're still in the design phase of your decking ideas and eager to get a grasp on how you can incorporate some steps into your project, you're in the right place.
Take your landscaping up a notch with these deck steps ideas
Add steps to your decking design to improve the look, for practical purposes as a linking device, and to help smoothly iron out any changes in level.
'Decking ideas with steps are great for taking advantage of sloping gardens,' says Leigh Barnes of Jacksons Fencing (opens in new tab). 'Easily made into steps, decking can be used to create short steep steps to get from one level to another quickly or to add dramatic design, and longer steps that allow access to functional spaces to enjoy in the garden.'
1. Use steps to connect a split-level deck
In this contemporary landscaped backyard in the quiet bayside village of Carmel-By-The-Sea, California, the focus is on creating an entertaining-friendly space. The design includes wide deck steps in richly colored wood that lead down to a matching lower deck area.
A look like this works well if you have a terraced or sloping garden and want a more open-plan design, as the wide nature of the deck steps really helps to open up the space and make it feel much more light and airy. Pockets of planting in integrated beds help to soften the hardscaping.
If you want to install a design like this yourself, make sure you are up to speed on how to build decking so you can create a fabulous space that's perfect for outdoor living.
2. Try floating steps to link spaces
Timber deck steps ideas can be both beautiful and versatile, as illustrated in this design by landscape gardener Joe Perkins (opens in new tab). They will segue perfectly into a naturalistic planting scheme to create an immersive experience.
If you're interested in sustainable gardens, look for renewable forest timbers for your steps. 'Nature can teach us a lot about how we can work together to tackle climate change,' say Joe.
A sweep of biodiverse meadow-like planting in a soft color palette edges right up to the decking steps to create an enchanting place to wander through as you walk down to a recessed seating area.
3. Grow climbing plants up a decking staircase
Opt for wooden staircase-style deck steps with a balustrade to link your deck with another area of the garden and it will give you the perfect framework for growing the best climbing plants. It also lets you become immersed in a relaxed and natural planting scheme as you walk up the steps.
Choose PEFC or FSC certified timber which is sourced from sustainably managed forests for your steps and deck railings like the Western Red cedar and Douglas Fir timber used here. Plants such as climbing star jasmine, honeysuckle and clematis will feel right at home scrambling up the hand rails.
4. Add a bold design feature with curved steps
Throw away the rulebook by introducing curved decking ideas with steps for a real showstopper in an urban garden. Bringing more organic shapes to a modern deck helps to create a more natural-feeling space too.
Curvy shapes are also a clever design hack to make a small deck look larger by leading the eye across the space so it feels wider. Make sure curves have a reason for being there, however, and think about how they sit in harmony with the rest of your home too.
5. Light up decking steps with LED strips
We love the look of contemporary decking projects that come with all the added extras to finish them to a high spec. Deck step edgings and fascia boards are the icing on the cake. They ensure that everything looks neat, whilst providing extra protection for high traffic areas that get a lot of wear and tear.
Adding LED deck lighting ideas lets you use the space safely by helping to navigate steps and drops, highlighting the way to go on your deck. It's also a great design feature that adds a sleek look.
6. Choose a weathered coastal look
If you love the idea of a laid-back coastal garden vibe, look for boards in subtle, weathered hues that suggest the idea of sea-washed timber. This pared down minimal look is so easy to do and is especially good for steps leading to swimming pool decks and hot tub decks, as long as you choose a non-slip option.
'When it comes to decks I always feel that natural materials work best, both visually and for their tactile properties,' says Rae Wilkinson (opens in new tab), who designed this space. 'For decking I generally use smooth side up untreated FSC certified Balau or IPE, which is sustainably produced using a careful planting and harvesting cycle.'
If you're on the lookout for cheap decking ideas, you could consider reclaimed timber to get a similar worn look.
7. Design wide steps for large, multi-level decks
Make your deck steps ideas the showpiece of your backyard with an impressive cascading design. A popular feature of more high-end deck builds, cascading decking steps wrap smoothly around the deck as a key part of your backyard landscaping.
Fake it with a timber look-a-like that's just like hand-crafted wood boards. Choose a product that has all the good looking aesthetic of hardwood, and is durable and low-maintenance too.
Don't forget to factor in some super-sleek integrated lighting to complete the look for your composite deck ideas too.
8. Mix in interesting materials for risers
Cobble stones are often used as part of landscaping ideas for backyards but rarely as part of a deck steps project, as deck boards or fascia materials tend to be the go-to choice. But cobbles as well as river rocks, bluestone and flagstones lend a more organic and natural feel to your decking steps.
We love this cobblestone design for step risers as it feels unique as well as adding a rustic feel that's right on trend. It shows that it's a good idea to consider mixing up your hardscaping materials to get a more unique look and not simply relying on wood alone.
9. Enhance a sleek and contemporary look
Match the look of your decking steps with integrated lights that are a good fit design wise. 'We recommend installing lighting on the riser and tread of each step to illuminate them from both sides,' says Toby Allen of NeoTimber (opens in new tab). Consider also adding lights for wayfinding and to make a feature of curves and raised edges.
For a project like this planning is everything, and it's also important to think about the practicalities carefully. 'We work with IP67 rating which is certified for exterior use and fully waterproof,' adds Toby. 'We recommend building your subframe with sufficient space to allow wiring to be easily accessible if complications arise later. Installed properly, decking lights create a visual focal point as well as making steps safe for everyone using them.'
If you love the look of this colored deck, our guide on how to paint decking has plenty of tips on how to update your decked space with paint to give it a sleek, contemporary edge.
10. Use a straight flight of steps to access a raised deck
When it comes to raised decking ideas, this has to be one of our favorites. The key is to see a sloping garden as full of potential and it's your chance to create something with real wow factor. Deck steps take centre stage for a project like this and they need to be practical and safe, as well as look good.
Raising up a deck and giving it its own distinct level is a great way of working with a garden that slopes upwards. Create a sense of drama with steps leading up to an enclosed area to transform it into a special space for entertaining.
Add some deck furniture to enhance that outdoor living room feel too, so your raised deck becomes a real people magnet as well as utilising every inch of outdoor space.
What is the standard height of a deck step?
We asked Caroline Birdsall, one of the leading experts at Millboard (opens in new tab), for the lowdown on what the standard height of a deck step should be. Here's what she revealed:
'Incorporating steps into a decking scheme is ideal for multi-level gardens or terraces, and they are relatively simple to install. However, to ensure they are functional, they need to be pre-planned effectively.
Residential steps should have a ‘rise’ between 6-8.5in (15-22cm) and a ‘going’ (the step tread, which is the horizontal distance of the step where your feet go) of 8.5-12in (22-30cm), with the maximum angle of the pitch in a domestic setting being 42°. It’s important to keep these measurements consistent – steps that are different sizes are a trip hazard.
It’s important give the decking steps proper support, as they often receive a surprising amount of wear and tear. Properly finishing them with specially designed finishing pieces that complement your deck will also help to ensure longevity on the edges, as this area is most susceptible to scuffs and scrapes.
Finally, think about decking color ideas for your steps. You don’t have to use the same color as your decking scheme, in fact using a complementary color not only makes a design statement, it’s practical too. Highlighting the edges of steps in a different color can reduce the risk of guests mis-stepping or losing balance, while choosing a contrasting step riser adds a fresh, contemporary look.'
Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.
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